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Berklee City Music/Kris Allen Tour Recap

We are following up on our previous post, and filling in the rest of the story about the recent tour with the Berklee City Music All Stars, Kris Allen, American Idol winner, and The Music Empowers Foundation. Here you will find quotes from our student band members, video clips of the students performing on stage with Kris, and stellar action photos. This experience was unforgettable, and effective at spreading awareness for the need and benefit of music education.

“The Philly show was the BEST. The adrenaline in the room was insane, we were so pumped. Playing for our peers wasn’t as intimidating as we anticipated, everybody was into it, the vibe was so chill and cool, we were already gelling […] WE’RE A BAND, we’re not a bunch of urban kids City Music threw together and played but we’re a band now, we’re a family. Kris Allen was so cool and laid back and he could SING, he was bad…bad in a good way! He has so much soul.” -Erica Telisnor, Keyboards

“My experience on the Kris Allen/Berklee/Music Empowers tour was definitely unforgettable. From early morning wake up calls and awesome nights hanging out with the band… a lot of memories were made on the tour! It was such a fantastic opportunity and an amazing couple of days! Although, sometimes it started to feel like one continuous day. But, it was awesome because, that made it feel like we had all the time in the world to enjoy ourselves and take in every moment!” -Brittany Butler, Guitar and Vocals

“One of the things that will stick with me is how Kris carried himself. He’s a very dynamic performer, but he wasn’t arrogant, he was very kind and always had time to talk. I didn’t get the “star” vibe from him at all, he was extremely approachable and down to earth. As I mature in music and performance, I have learned that there can be some interesting personalities in the music business, and realize that I have been blessed to have teachers and role models that are so absent of pride, filled with honesty and a desire to share what they have learned. I would like to follow in their footsteps, that’s the type of musician I would like to be.
Always honest, always learning, and always humble.” -John Margaris, Bass

“The other day we performed for the Nueva Esperanza Charter School in Philadelphia. The kids were screaming at the top of their lungs for us as well as Kris. It’s so nice to see that type of reaction because we are just like them, and here we are performing for them and they are going nuts like it is a concert for some big superstar. Of course as soon as Kris comes on you see the girls falling to the ground, jumping around excited to see him and be SO close. After the performance, we had a Q&A session with some of the kids. They asked us questions from “what is your favorite sport?” to “what inspired us to pursue music?” They seemed inspired by us because we too are just high school students yet here we are touring with Kris Allen!” -Jennifer Carino, Vocals

“When it came time to go onstage and the lights came on, I went out and saw a HUGE CROWD! Their energy was off the charts! I felt so comfortable up on stage and I really felt like this is what I want to do when I grow up, be a musician.” -Mario Taddeo Jr., Drums

“I hope that more people like us will have this great opportunity to go out and play for people, because it really has been an excellent experience for me. I’m glad that Berklee City Music has these opportunities, and I hope to be able to continue with my learning with them.”
-David Estes-Smargiassi, Guitar

“We’re all back in Boston now, and in all honesty, it’s heartbreaking. The tour was a BLAST and Kris was such a great person to get to know. I feel extremely lucky to have been able to do something like this, and it proved to me that I want to KEEP doing it. I think the greatest part was also getting to know my own band even more. I guess that’s what life on the road does to you; you don’t really know a person until you have to share the same shower!” -Emily Ronna, Guitar and Vocals

Berklee City Music All Stars At the TED Conference

Earlier this year, during the week of February 28 – March 4, the Berklee City Music All stars had the privilege of being the TED Conference house band. The band members were all high school students and led by, Berklee professor, Winston Maccow, and under the musical direction of Grammy award winner, Thomas Dolby. This was an unforgettable experience for all involved. The students were able to share their talents with some of the greatest thinkers and innovators alive today. Here is what Langston Maxwell, Drummer, said of his time playing at TED:

“My experience with the Berklee College of Music City Music Allstars and the TED Conference has been one of the best times of my life.
I couldn’t ask for anything more than to spend a week with 5 other amazing musicians playing great music and meeting hundreds of new people. I am more than thankful to the people of City Music and the TED Conference for this time and it is my pleasure to be apart of this great program.”

Finally, here are a few words from J. Curtis Warner, Jr., Associate Vice President of Education Outreach, and Executive Director of Berklee City Music, about his on the ground experience at TED:

“The TED conference was an incredible experience for all of the six students and three adults who accompanied them. David Mash VP of Technology Resources and Education Outreach along with Dave Kusek of Berklee Media, regular TEDsters, were there to support us as well.  It was almost as incredible as the feat of getting students from 5 different cities together for 3 weeks of rehearsals which included buy-in from parents, school principals and teachers.

The students opened up each of three to four sessions each day under the musical direction of Grammy award wining recording artist, Thomas Dolby, having been well prepared by City Music Artistic Director, Winston Maccow . They performed outstandingly and were the talk of the conference.

If you wanted to be invisible, all you had to do was walk around the floor with them in between sessions. When Demi Moore and Cameron Diaz walked up to some of the kids to tell them how “awesome” their performance was, I was invisible… When Ashton Kutcher stuck his hand out of a closing elevator door to shake one of the kids hands, I was invisible. When Andy Berdnt, VP of Google spoke with the kids about maybe doing something with Google at the New York office… I was invisible.

After a while I got the message and just decided to be… well…  “Invisible.”

We all heard talks by inventors, poets, artists, scientists, doctors. We saw life size puppets that fooled you into living reality. There was a 3D printer that printed human organs from cells. There was multimedia beyond expectation.

There was a party at the Westin Hotel, where the kids got to play a short jazz set… and there was the next morning session where the entire audience came to their feet to dance to the music of the All Stars. Oh yeah… it was 8:30 in the morning…”

Read more of the story!

Artists Galore! – Rafael Restrepo, Blue Mics – Internship Series (Part 4)

Salute fellow Bloggers!

It’s me once again and this time I promise I will try to be brief. I’m just so excited to tell you about my great internship experience here at Blue Microphones. Well, this time there is not going to be any life lessons or morals to my narration. Just wanted to share with you the amazing experiences and encounters I had with visitors at Blue studios.

The week of Feb 28th was extremely fun and busy here at Blue. We had artist visits almost every day. These ranged from established bands such as Hello Goodbye, to up and coming ones like The Yes Team. We also had well known engineers like Tony Maserati, composers/producers like David Das, to artsy musician, painter and poet Joseph Arthur. Enough with name-dropping, let’s get down to more details.

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Ben Levin: My Private Session with Steve Vai (part two)

After winning a context, guitar performance student Ben Levin—last seen auditioning for Lady Gaga’s band—is in Los Angeles at a master class with his creative hero, Berklee alumnus Steve Vai—and he’s just stuck his foot in his mouth. Fortunately, they move on….

Steve immediately opened the floor for questions and not too many people were raising their hands. Since I had A LOT of questions, I ended up asking a ton of them and I got some incredibly inspiring information out of him! He also asked us what our goals were and offered personal advice.

Here are my two most important questions and Steve’s answers as I understood them:

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Ben Levin: My Private Session with Steve Vai (part one)

Have you ever had a conversation with your biggest creative influence? Guitar performance student Ben Levin did, with Berklee alumnus Steve Vai—and wasn’t disappointed.  Here’s the first part of his kinda crazy, very L.A. experience. More next week.

I recently won a contest where Steve Vai picked 10 guitarists to fly out to Los Angeles for a private master class. Steve Vai has been my greatest musical influence and needless to say, I have been ecstatic about the opportunity. The experience was really fascinating and inspiring, so I thought I’d share it with you and try my best to relay what Steve was telling us.

Steve Vai with Ben Levin. Photo taken by Dan Cristol.

Steve Vai with Ben Levin. Photo taken by Dan Cristol.

I flew from Boston to LAX where a transportation service picked up all the contest winners, and took us to our hotel.

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